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Oct 17, 2011

A lot of Hot Ayre

Few of us like Monday but The Fifth Official does, for it brings with it a chance for him to point the finger and laugh. Here he pulls out the pretty, the puzzling and the downright pig-ugly from a week brimming with potential victims.

Hot Ayre's pot of gold

Who precisely was it that asked Ian 'Hot' Ayre to open his gob and declare Liverpool the moral authority on how the Premier League's vast pot of gold should be distributed? Apparently Ian thinks finishing seventh and sixth in the past two seasons allows him to slot his club into the same bracket as Manchester United and Real Madrid. Why do they need more cash anyway? So they can buy more mediocre players? I thought they'd have got tired of that by the time Rafa Benitez left.

The famous saying goes: "No man is an island." Well, Ian clearly seems to think Liverpool is, and as such he clearly feels qualified to comment on the viewing preferences of other islands, like Taiwan, who apparently have a distinct phobia of Bolton. So what Ian must have been hoping for was a rip-roaring game against the English champions to prove to the world, and Richard Scudamore, that Liverpool should be allowed to renegotiate their pocket size. What he got was a game so gritty you could probably tarmac roads with it.

The major talking point was an unseemly spat between Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez, neither of whom are strangers to controversy. Suarez protested his innocence in a slightly bizarre statement, which painted him as a character from The Wizard of Oz: "I go to the field with the maximum illusion of a little child who enjoys what he does, not to create conflicts." He also insisted he "respects everybody". Why don't we ask Otman Bakkal, or the entire nation of Ghana, Luis?

Kuala Lumpur Fan Club

How ironic then, given Hot Ayre's comments about Malaysia's deep indifference towards Bolton, that the Trotters' clash with Wigan at the international cathedral of football that is the DW Stadium trumped the North West Clasico in terms of goals and entertainment. Perhaps this was the game to finally ignite Kuala Lumpur's passion for all things Lancashire and soon they'll be swapping Nasi Lemak for meat pies and hot pot.

Fair enough, the quality was tantamount to being served offal in a steak house but, blimey, it wasn't half thrilling. Owen Coyle has been talking of the need for Bolton to pull their socks up (good job he didn't personally, or they'd have been round his neck) and thankfully for him Wigan were in typically generous mood to hand Coyle his first win since the opening day.

The standard might be questionable, and the fixture may not have ignited the burning flames of desire around the globe, but at least there were goals. Asia and Africa may not be potty for Bolton or Wigan but I'll wager they would far rather tune in for that than watch Serie A. Sunday's seven games in Italy produced five goals and five 0-0 draws - a set of results that no doubt delighted their marketing department.

All by myself

Roberto Mancini has clearly deemed the Carlos Tevez affair his chance to inject a slice of steel into his silky smooth, scarf-loving persona, though perhaps to complete the illusion he should stop cycling to work in skin-tight lycra and order himself the fattest, shiniest hummer in Christendom. Mancini was in no mood to mince about with Carlitos, who was hauled back from Argentina to face more music when the entire British population was praying he'd stay there.

Tevez was forced to train on his own on Thursday, breaking into what can only be described as a light-jog in front of two portly men who looked like they should be the ones trotting up and down. Other menial tasks for Carlos this week include top soiling the flower beds at the training ground and getting down to the Town Hall to pay off Mario Balotelli's parking fines.

Super Mario, of course, loves the fact that someone else is sitting on his naughty step for a change and has allied his best behaviour with a decent run of goal-scoring form. According to Roberto, Mario has even managed not to do anything absurd for a good 40 days. That must surely mean that an explosion of stupidity is just around the corner and I, for one, can't wait.

Dutch putty

Many unusual things happened at the Emirates on Sunday, and I'm not just referring to the fact that Arsenal actually won a game of football. Amid all the turmoil, all the disquiet, all the delusion and all the average football on display one thing became abundantly clear - Robin van Persie, or Bergkamp-lite as I like to call him, is the sticky putty holding the football club together.

But despite disingenuous stories about Van Persie selling his house (the papers failed to mention he had bought another one in the capital), Arsenal fans must wonder how much longer he can put up with those around him. For a start, I'm sure I spied Alex Song wearing gloves when London was basking in temperatures of 17 degrees. By half-time, disgruntled fans were shouting at grizzled hacks in the press box that this was the worst Arsenal side since 1976.

In the second half the club again announced the ground was full despite swathes of empty seats everywhere and an atmosphere more limp than a month-old stick of celery. And after Van Persie's free-kick had secured all three points, Arsene Wenger said Sunderland - a team hovering above the drop zone with one win to their name all season - were the best side he'd seen in action that weekend. More proof, if any were needed, that this is a 'special' football club.

London calling

Steve Kean has been a busy boy since the last time Blackburn took to the field. The gaffer and those members of his squad who don't play for their countries (all of them then) travelled to India, or Pune to be exact, the hometown of world-famous chicken conglomerate Venky's. Perhaps he over-dosa'd on hot curry paste while he was away because his latest motivational soundbite is weaker than a watery korma.

I was hoping Steve might 'find himself' on a yoga retreat deep in the wilds of Maharashtra but, judging by the latest piece of solid gold claptrap that emerged from his lips after a draw with QPR saw them sink to the bottom, the only thing he found was another self-help manual. "Bring on the London clubs," he screamed, after Rovers' point added to that win over Arsenal and a draw against Fulham.

Yes, that's right: Kean has extrapolated a derisory nugget of hope from the fact that his side have done all right in three games against teams from the capital. Steve has precisely six days to think up his next assault on the media's senses before Tottenham march up to Lancashire and burst his babble. Then his mantra will probably change to "Bring on the clubs from the London borough of Islington".

Don't forget, you can help The Fifth Official's bid to stimulate more debate on Twitter than Michael Owen at www.twitter.com/fifthofficial

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